Authors: Jim Greenfield
Greyrawk decided to memorize as much as he could of the layout of the Celaeri camp. He knew the summit area well enough; he just needed to remember the particulars of Celaeri doings. He saw the arrow fetching near the southwest corner of the summit. It was a good place to view the road up the mountain. The Celaeri sang while they worked but their tunes were drab monotones in contrast to their exotic appearances. He gazed around the camp making mental notes. Soon, food was brought to him, but no one spoke to him. He continued his mental inventory when he noticed Jerue Adan sitting on a stone twenty yards away, staring at him. Jerue tapped his forehead and grinned at Greyrawk. Then he moved on.
Greyrawk dozed for a time; the sun was beginning to set when he awoke to someone kicking his foot. He grudgingly opened one eye.
"Wake up," said Ioane Adan. "Night is falling and you need a blanket."
"You couldn't just drop it on me and walk away?"
"I could but I wanted to talk to you."
"Leave me alone. I want to go back to sleep. You should too."
"I am Celaeri; I seldom sleep as Men do. Sit up; I want to sit next to you." She snuggled in next to him and spread the blanket across both of them.
"What do you want?" said Greyrawk. "No reason to get cozy, you have achieved what you wanted."
"How do you know what I want, Ian?"
"You are Celaeri. You will put Men under your heel again."
Ioane did not reply immediately. She appeared to consider her choice of words. "How did you determine that was what I wanted?"
"You are Celaeri and want to destroy all Men," said Greyrawk.
"Interesting. Do you know the concept of 'duty'?"
"You slept with me for duty?" He turned away from her.
"I am not a monster," said Ioane Adan. "Not even by your standards. You wrong me when you judge by your values. I have a duty to my people, your people. The Celaeri are nearly extinct and we have a duty to keep that from happening. What we want individually does not matter, even for me. Jerue Adan rules with an iron fist."
"You want me to understand what you are? What you did to me? I nearly bled to death for the release of Celaeri. I will keep my hatred of you and your kind."
"You are one of us."
"No I'm not, and what little Celaeri blood I have is not enough to matter to your people. I have seen how pure blood treats the lesser Celaeri; as animals, mongrels, eaters of garbage. A beggar in Gornst would be better treated. Do not sit here and try to get me to sympathize with you as a victim of your father's grand schemes. I do not believe the words from your mouth."
"Then how about this?" She leaned over and kissed him gently.
"You worked that angle once. I am proof against it now."
"We treated you badly, and I guess I deserve your contempt."
"You act as if you did not say the words you spoke when I was recaptured."
"I said them for the others. They would report to Jerue everything we said."
"Leave me alone." He turned away and tried to sleep. Ioane Adan remained where she was and watched him sleep.
Greyrawk woke up in the night and realized she still leaned against him. He stirred slightly and saw her gazing out at the stars in the black sky. She did not notice his wakefulness and Greyrawk did not speak. He began to nod off again. He opened his eyes and Ioane was gone. He leaned forward but could not see her. He tugged on his chain in habit and heard movement behind him.
"Awake?" said Kirta Yan. "I would think you Men would sleep through the night." She sat on the stone above him. She held her curved dagger and began sharpening it. She stood taller than Ioane Adan and her dark blue hair hung in her face.
"I am told I cannot kill you, Ian Greyrawk, and I am disappointed. Your blood is important to us and must be fresh, alas. There is a rumor that the spell will soon be complete. If that is true, my blade will caress your throat soon."
"Why do you hate me?"
"You? Not particularly you. But you are Men and you are a Greyrawk, betrayer of Celaeri. All your line must perish and I vowed a thousand years ago to make it so. I am tired of waiting. Is Ioane with child?"
"How would I know?" asked Greyrawk.
"Are you her lover? She makes a habit of taking Men for lovers. Maybe because of your short life spans she knows that if you displease her it won't be for long." She slid the flat side of the dagger along the outer part of Greyrawk's neck.
"You will wait for me, won't you?" asked Kirta Yan. "Don't let anyone else kill you." She smiled but her yellow eyes were cold. She sauntered off into the rising mists.
He watched after her as he tried to figure out what had happened. He knew from previous encounters that Kirta Yan did not like Men, but he never took the thought farther. His death appeared closer than the new moon. If he tried to escape, he would be found and returned. If the Mother Stone failed, his blood would refresh it, and if he stayed, Kirta Yan would kill him. It was beginning to become a bad day.
Greyrawk dozed in fits until dawn. The sky was clear allowing for the sun's rays to peak over the mountains at him, but it didn't last. Clouds moved in, low and heavy. A fine mist floated down as the summit of Greyrawk Mountain rested in the clouds. He could no longer see clearly to the far side of the summit and the voices of the Celaeri were muffled by the weather. He pulled up the blanket Ioane had given him; it was thick enough yet to keep the water from reaching him. In another hour he would be soaked to the skin. There was no shelter close to him, nor did any Celaeri seem to notice him sitting in the rain. Half-breeds were non-entities. Why had he returned to Cresida? He should have stayed with Jaele and opened the inn she wanted. He never could make the right decision on his own. He wondered what Jaele was doing right now.
He realized he was drifting in and out of consciousness but he believed he saw Jaele's face in the bushes north of him. He shook his head, rubbed his eyes and looked again. Just for a second he saw her again and then she was gone. He sat up and looked around at the Celaeri but no one seemed to be watching him. Still, he recognized the feeling of being hunted and he carefully noted everyone in his field of vision. Someone was watching him, marking him, and he would not be taken unawares.
Greyrawk focused inward, calming himself. He cast his awareness out along the edge of the summit. He sensed Celaeri near but off to north he sensed Jaele. She was there along with someone else, a Daerlan perhaps but he was not as familiar with Daerlan. He suppressed his excitement and continued his search. He had to be thorough; if Jaele came to rescue him, they must not overlook anything. There was another presence, maybe Men, but he did not recognize it and he couldn't pinpoint its location. It was definitely not a Celaeri.
"Do not move, Ian Greyrawk," whispered a voice near him. "I am a friend of Jaele's. You need to be removed from this place. Place your trust in me and I will free you."
"Who are you? You are not Men; I could not sense what you are."
"I have Zidar blood. Now, when I break this chain, run directly north in the wood and continue down the hill."
Suddenly, several-armed Celaeri rushed toward them. Jerue Adan had his sword in his hand.
"Well met, Kerreth Veralier."
The figure near Greyrawk stood up and Greyrawk saw his would-be rescuer: a bulky figure as tall as a Celaeri but broad and muscular; twin swords in his hands.
"I never expected to see you again, Jerue Adan. Why have you come to curse this land again?"
"This is my land. The Men are usurpers. We shall drive them into the sea. Why should you care, Veralier? You are more Zidar than Men and only take notice of the pathetic beings when your purse is low. Are you poor again? Is that why you are meddling?"
"My purse is over-flowing; I do not seek a fee this time."
"Ah, you claim to have principles, then? That is a new development."
"You have been gone a long time, Adan," said Kerreth. "Many things change over time."
"What is your interest in Greyrawk?"
"Do you play with me, Adan? You know Loric is one of the Talos Company. Ian Greyrawk is under our protection."
"Your protection doesn't seem to have done him much good."
"I am leaving with him. If you try to stop us I will kill you."
"I don't doubt that. But while we are engaged here, my soldiers have captured your Daerlan and Jaele." He gestured behind him where Jaele and Moria were bound and daggers at their throat.
"Even you could not kill all of us before your women are dead," said Jerue Adan. "I will concede the point of honor for my life; you and Ian may depart, but the women stay. That is my only offer."
Kerreth took a step forward and Ioane stepped between him and her father.
"Kerreth! We will not harm your Daerlan. She is only surety against you."
"What about Jaele?" asked Greyrawk.
"She is surety for our race," said Jerue Adan. "If the Mother Stone begins to fail, the blood of your child will be needed. Whether Jaele survives or not, depends on the strength of your blood, and how long the Mother Stone is sustained."
"That is not acceptable!" said Greyrawk.
"We have no position to barter Ian," said Kerreth. "She will be safe enough for some time. The Mother Stone feels strong."
"You see," said Jerue Adan. "They shall be comfortable in our home and you shall not join the Men against us. Very simple."
"Yes. May I say farewell to Moria?"
"Arrows will be trained on you both."
"We shall not break the agreement, yet." Kerreth walked to Moria and kissed her, looking long into her eyes. He glanced at Jaele whose jaw trembled and turned back to Greyrawk.
"Say your farewell, Ian," said Kerreth.
Greyrawk's throat was constricted and he couldn't speak, but managed to kiss Jaele before he was pulled away.
"We shall escort you back to the road to Gornst."
Kerreth put his arm on Greyrawk and they walked down the winding road from the summit. Kerreth led out the horses from their cover and they rode slowly down the road to Gornst.
"Who are you?" asked Greyrawk.
"My name is Kerreth Veralier, Captain of the Talos Company. One of my company is a relative of yours, Loric Greyrawk."
"I don't know him."
"He's a bit older than you. Ioane Adan is his mother. He's been in the Talos Company for a long time."
"The Talos Company? Never thought it was real."
"Oh, we're real enough, just a bit more boring than the tales."
"Seems like I'm in a tale now," said Greyrawk. His life had flipped over. Riding with a hero centuries old, battling against a race long vanished from Landermass, expecting a child with loving two women, one not Men in anyway; this was not why he left Amloth.
"What can we do?"
"We will rescue them. Belderag will soon send his soldiers to fight the Celaeri. They will engage on the plains to our north. The Talos Company will assault the summit while Jerue Adan is busy with Belderag."
"I want to fight with you," said Greyrawk. "I know how to use a sword."
"Your help will be welcome, Ian. But you must follow my commands. I will not jeopardize Moria, even for Jaele's life or yours. Remember that."
"I will. Tell me about Loric."
"Loric? Well, he's half Celaeri so he looks closer to Jerue Adan than to you. He has the same coloring as Celaeri but boarder through the shoulders. He's a bit of a rake, but I guess that happens when you are one of a kind. Not many potential companions out there."
"Is that why you and Moria are companions?"
"Partly. She completes me in many ways. I was born in the First Age of Landermass and I don't even know exactly how old I am. I have seen so many generations of Men pass into dust and Moria has lived over half that time. We have shared experiences and long lives. I do not know how I could stand knowing my companion would die years before me."
"That would be terrible."
"And yet, you chose a similar fate."
"What do you mean?" asked Greyrawk. His stomached knotted.
"Jaele is mortal, you are not. Well, not in length of life, anyway."
"Did no one tell you?" asked Kerreth. "Your Celaeri blood will sustain you for several hundred years. Jaele does not have enough Celaeri blood to even double her life-span."
Greyrawk lurched forward in his saddle and Kerreth put out and arm to steady him. His head spun and his thoughts unraveled. Kerreth grabbed the reigns from Greyrawk and led his horse.
"Guess I should have saved that for another time," muttered Kerreth.
My own lineage of magic can be traced back to Mauran despite my being an orphan. The magic itself speaks of my Zidar blood. Much of my schooling came from Macelan who encountered the darker remnants of Black Kerthon, once a Prince of Nantitet, descended from Mauran himself. Kerthon and Macelan could not resist the dark pull of the Jungeguds' taint on magic. It is a marvel I have not bowed to it. It is certain I had the proper ego to fall into the darkness. Being a Zidar does not allow one to develop much humility but seeing all the dark Zidars delving in magic makes me wonder if Cothos foresaw these ends.
From Gerrand's Histories of Landermass.
Brandalay stood on the hill below the sagging branches of the trees. He watched the road from Gornst run past Greyrawk Mountain to a spot below where they camped. He saw some movement of Celaeri near the foot of Greyrawk Mountain but they behaved like guards, not advance scouts for the marching of the Celaeri army. He exhaled deeply, wondering how he fell so deep in this mess. He led the Talos Company to this place across country out of view of Greyrawk Mountain. He had tried to gather Arenna's men to his side, but they would not let him in the compound without her permission. Arenna would not come out of her quarters to see him. She had gone mad and stabbed him and then disappeared into the darkness of Belderag's dungeons. He knew a reckoning still awaited him with Arenna.
They had seen no sign of Kerreth, but they often were out of sight of the road and did not venture near the Celaeri. Alarie Skye picked the campsite as being far enough from Greyrawk Mountain not to attract attention but close enough to watch developments. Without the addition of Arenna's men their company was too small for traditional warfare; they would have to hit and run when the opportunity presents itself. Brandalay decided to wait and see if Belderag rode to fight the Celaeri. It would be folly to move before they knew the Celaeri would be engaged in battle; otherwise, they could be cut down easily. The others agreed with him.